A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

McLuhan slandered?

Marshall McLuhan (January, 1996, age 84).  Unbelievable!

For the most part death agrees with me.  I’ve got a quiet room, and plenty of books.  Every now and then I look up from my studies and look down on earth to find out what people are saying about me.  It’s delightful to see that even now 16 years after my death – or as Corinne likes to call it my “unfortunate demise” – I’m still a celebrity.  The latest news on the Marshall McLuhan front is that Wired magazine has put me on their masthead as their patron Saint.  An excellent choice, if I do say so myself, and I do.  But I don’t like what that bloke Gary Wolf wrote about me.  Said someone else had written my books.  The nerve of the man, ordinarily I’d sue, but unfortunately given my present circumstances, that’s impossible.  No lawyers up here.

Me (February 2010, age 57).  Wolfe may have been right on the mark.

What Wolfe wrote is that “scholars agree that Marshall McLuhan’s earliest books were written by him, but there is mystery and uncertainty about who really wrote his subsequent works.”  What there is no “mystery and uncertainty” about is that all but one of McLuhan’s books published after Understanding Media were co-authored.  The question is how much did McLuhan actually contribute to the writing of these books and how much did his co-authors.  It is generally agreed, for example, that The Medium is the Massage was pieced together by his co-authors from McLuhan’s previous writing.  My own belief is that the McLuhan who wrote the Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media is not the same McLuhan who co-authored the later books.  I have written a long essay explaining more precisely what I mean by this, which I will publish serially in this blog, beginning next week.

Was the McLuhan who wrote The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media a genius?  How do you define genius?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Produced by Jerome Agel, 1967.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, February 13th, 2010
Permalink Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

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